Read the title again. Yes, social media has completely taken over our lives. Let me ask you something: What is the first thing that you do when you wake up? What is the last thing that you do before you sleep? What do you do when you’re bored? If the answer to these three questions is: look at your phone, then, my friend, social media has taken over your life. But don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Almost every single person who has a phone is in this drill with you. Social Media has infested itself into us, and it’s up to us to get rid of it.
Recently, I found myself confused, and frankly quite annoyed at my habits on social media. Constantly defining one’s worth based on likes, followers and feed aesthetics doesn’t make for a healthy, balanced and happy life. So, my curiosity got the better of me, and I did some research on why humans tend to get addicted to social media like this. Here is what I found out…
Flashback to the cavemen era when humans lived in small packs or groups. Your pack gave you your identity. Being included in a group meant that you would be safe, accepted and not an outcast left to be eaten by the lions. So, this need to belong to a group has stuck with us over the centuries, developing the so-called ‘pack mentality’. Nowadays, your ‘pack’ could be your friends and your followers on social media. Basically, it refers to anyone you interact with daily.
When we reach for our phones to scroll through Instagram, watch some YouTube, or update our Facebook status (does anyone still do that?!), a feel-good chemical called dopamine is released in our brain. The production of dopamine results in you feeling validated and accomplished. Posting a photograph on your Instagram is a way to reach out to feel this satisfaction–through likes, comments and new followers. Thus, to fulfil this longing feeling of being happy, we resort to scrolling through Instagram.
Recently, a study was performed on teenagers, where their brain activity was analysed while they used an app similar to Instagram. Certain regions of their brain were activated by likes, especially the reward centre. This is the same region that responds when we see pictures of a person we love or win money. It was revealed that the nucleus accumbens, which is part of the brain’s reward circuitry, was active when teens saw an increased number of likes on their photos. Hence, encouraging them to use social media more often.
According to scientists, using social media excessively can result in permanently changing the brain’s plasticity, which is how it grows and changes over the course of different experiences. In a way, our brain changes shape depending on how we learn and develop skills on social media, altering our white matter. Now, it is not necessarily a good or bad thing, however just a word of caution for all of us Instagrammers.
I know what you’re thinking…
But with some determination and dedication, you can curb your constant itch to grab hold of your phone and scroll through social media. Will you make the change today?
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